Thursday, November 11, 2004

Valley Park

Attended the AGM of the local Residents Association. As expected most of the issues really fell within the remit of the local council (Cllr Alan Dowden coped admirably) but there were other concerns which I was able to explain (dentists) and demonstrate what I had been doing or request further feedback (flying patterns of aircraft over the area).

The dentist saga is a particular irritant. Locally there have been a proliferation of cases where local communities bend over backwards to give planning permission etc etc to a new dental surgery promising that they will provide NHS services - only to find that a couple of years down the tracks the dentist announces that s/he is "going private" but will take on children under the NHS if the parents enrol as private patients.

I have raised this in parliament and the response has always been that "dentists are actually private contractors and are free to do what they like" and the professional bodies do not appear to think that this practice is unethical.

To be fair to dentists (and to try and provide a balanced picture) they would tell you that the NHS is severely restrictive and as adults have to pay 90% (?) of their costs anyway (for a reduced and restricted service) there is actually a benefit in encouraging dental plans etc and being able to access the best quality services (apparently not always possible on the NHS). Maybe, but the flaw in this argument is that withdrawal from the NHS is all very well for those patients who pay but services are eroded for children, those on benefits, pregnant mothers and pensioners.

The Minister tells me that the DOH are in the process of recruiting foreign dentists and I think I heard someone say the other day that they are Polish - very appropriate.